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Wednesday, March 11, 2009

DDD cuts were not repealed, though child care subsidies are safe

Shame on Governor Brewer, Shame on Arizona.

It's a deal! Brewer, GOP to fix child care, other '09 cuts

Wednesday, 11 March 2009 14:30 Mary K. Reinhart

Legislative leaders and Gov. Jan Brewer have reached a deal to restore child care funding and about $40 million worth of other items whacked in the mid-year budget fix, including cuts to hospital programs and illegal funds transfers.
The House and Senate appropriations committees will consider a strike-everything amendment Thursday to make the changes, a reprieve for some 15,000 children who would be kicked off the child care rolls this weekend.
“I can almost hear the collective sigh of relief from 10,000 parents who hopefully are going to learn tomorrow that they can go to work on Monday and still take care of their kids,” said Bruce Liggett, executive director of the Arizona Child Care Association.The bill, which was being drafted Wednesday afternoon, will backfill $24 million in cuts to the child care subsidy program with $18.2 million in federal stimulus funding. The remainder is expected to be covered with emergency funding from the First Things First early childhood development fund.

The proposed amendment to SB 1184 also restores $16.5 million in cuts to hospital programs that received federal matching funds, including $5 million for graduate medical education and $9 million for hospitals that serve a disproportionate share of low-income patients.

The bill also will reverse funds transfers that have been challenged as beyond the Legislature’s authority, including $2 million from the Arizona Power Authority and smaller grabs from agriculture and environmental funds.And the measure will return about $12.2 million of the $30 million in state-shared revenues that the Legislature took from cities and towns to balance the budget in the first round of cuts last summer.

Off the table for now is repeal of the statewide property tax, which Republicans had hoped to bring to a vote separate from the 2010 budget. Brewer told legislative leaders during a Tuesday afternoon meeting that she wanted the measure to be part of a comprehensive budget package, not piecemeal.
Senate President Bob Burns said Wednesday that the bill would not include funding to restore cuts to the Division of Developmental Disabilities. A Maricopa County Superior Court judge is expected to issue a temporary restraining order Wednesday afternoon to prevent those cuts, but Burns said the matter can be handled as part of the 2010 budget.

“What we attempted to do was to narrow it down to those issues which we felt were unwinnable,” he said of the budget-fix bill. “I believe we have the votes.”
The child care issue erupted this week as families were notified that they would lose their subsidies by Saturday. Thousands of parents and child care providers called and emailed Brewer and legislators, fearing that they would lose their jobs or be forced to leave their children home alone.

In her budget speech last week, Brewer asked lawmakers to use part of the $50 million in federal stimulus funding to restore the child care cuts by the weekend. But legislative leaders balked, saying the Department of Economic Security could continue to pay the bills while they worked out other 2009 budget fixes.

Legislators cut the Department of Economic Security by $150 million as part of the $1.6 billion midyear budget reductions. The department spends about $1.5 million a week for state-federal child car e subsidy program.

Under the budget cuts, working families earning more than 110 percent of the federal poverty level will no longer qualify for child care subsidies, which are paid on a sliding scale for about 45,000 children. Co-payments also will be increased, and provider rates reduced.

DES began a waiting list last month that already includes several hundred families and is expected to grow to more than 5,000 children by June 30.
It’s unclear whether the $18 million in the budget fix will be enough to restore provider rates, prevent co payment increases and eliminate the waiting list.Under the stimulus package, Arizona is in line to get about $25 million in additional federal child care money this year and another $25 million for 2010.

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